100 books like Winesburg, Ohio

By Sherwood Anderson,

Here are 100 books that Winesburg, Ohio fans have personally recommended if you like Winesburg, Ohio. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

Julie Anderson Author Of The Midnight Man

From my list on evocative stories set in a hospital.

Why am I passionate about this?

I write historical crime fiction, and my latest novel is set in a hospital, a real place, now closed. The South London Hospital for Women and Children (1912–1985) was set up by pioneering suffragists and women surgeons Maud Chadburn and Eleanor Davies-Colley (the first woman admitted to the Royal College of Surgeons) and I recreate the now almost-forgotten hospital in my book. Events take place in 1946 when wartime trauma still impacts upon a society exhausted by conflict, and my book choices also reflect this.

Julie's book list on evocative stories set in a hospital

Julie Anderson Why did Julie love this book?

This book’s celebration of rebelliousness of spirit and anti-institutionalism is why I like it.

Set in a psychiatric hospital, like Regeneration, its medical staff are closer in spirit to Dr. Yealland in that book, who prefers inflicting pain in order to cure than to the humane Dr. Rivers. I enjoyed the humour and the scandalous behaviour of McMurphy, the sane con-man in the asylum who battles the authoritarian and controlling Nurse Ratched. It is very much in the spirit of the anti-establishment 1960s when it was written.

Other inmates rebel too and draw down Ratched’s ire upon themselves, leading to suicide, and McMurphy attacks Ratched because, however rebellious, he cannot stomach this tragedy. There is a sad and bleak end for him, as ‘authority’ wins out. The ending is one of hope, but not for McMurphy. Like the other books on my list so far, this, too, was filmed.

By Ken Kesey,

Why should I read it?

10 authors picked One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Boisterous, ribald, and ultimately shattering, Ken Kesey's 1962 novel has left an indelible mark on the literature of our time. Now in a new deluxe edition with a foreword by Chuck Palahniuk and cover by Joe Sacco, here is the unforgettable story of a mental ward and its inhabitants, especially the tyrannical Big Nurse Ratched and Randle Patrick McMurphy, the brawling, fun-loving new inmate who resolves to oppose her. We see the struggle through the eyes of Chief Bromden, the seemingly mute half-Indian patient who witnesses and understands McMurphy's heroic attempt to do battle with the powers that keep them…


Book cover of Our Souls at Night

MJ Werthman White Author Of An Invitation to the Party

From my list on aging, family, and relationships.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a kid, our public library in the basement of the Methodist church became my second home. However, I considered any visit a bitter disappointment that didn’t result in one or two dog stories in the stack I signed out. Big Red, Old Yeller, Lassie, Lad a Dog, Call of the Wild, White Fang (the occasional wolf was also okay), I loved them all. That experience has continued to affect the adult I’ve become. As I’ve turned to reading, and writing, stories of family, relationships, and, lately, of aging, it’s become clear to me that I’ve never found a story that wasn’t improved by the appearance of a good dog.

MJ's book list on aging, family, and relationships

MJ Werthman White Why did MJ love this book?

Kent Haruf wrote Our Souls at Night as he was dying. What happens in it? Not a lot. It’s much easier to write stories in which things blow up, plot devices creak, and an ending ties everything up neatly. This quiet, elegiac novel is not that.

Addie and Louis, elderly neighbors, begin sleeping together because the nights are long and they are lonely. Her young grandson, Jamie, visits. Louis gives him a catcher’s mitt and brings home a shelter dog, Bonnie. Their grown children interfere. Complications ensue. And there are no quotation marks to indicate dialogue.

Yet, here I am telling you to go, now, find this book and read it today? Am I crazy? You decide (after you read the book).

P.S. Skip this film. Jane Fonda’s Stepford Wives’ perfection ruins a movie that needed its female beauty defined by wrinkles and gray hair, and an aging, infirm body.…

By Kent Haruf,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Our Souls at Night as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Absolutely beautiful' The Times

'Luminous' Ursula K Le Guin, Guardian

'I loved Our Souls at Night' David Nicholls

Addie Moore's husband died years ago, so did Louis Waters' wife, and, as neighbours in Holt, Colorado they have naturally long been aware of each other. With their children now far away both live alone in houses empty of family. The nights are terribly lonely, especially with no one to talk to. Then one evening Addie pays Louis an unexpected visit.

Their brave adventures-their pleasures and their difficulties-form the beating heart of Our Souls at Night. Kent Haruf's final novel is an…


Book cover of Gilead

Kelly Flanagan Author Of The Unhiding of Elijah Campbell

From my list on making you fall in love with male protagonists.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a clinical psychologist, a man, and a human being on his own journey of healing and becoming, I suppose I’m interested in stories with struggling but lovable male protagonists because I’m the struggling male protagonist in my own life story, learning how to fall in love again with myself and my story and the little boy who lives on within me. The courage my clients show in the process of facing their pain and finding something beautiful in it is inspiring to me. I hope my life reflects that courage, too. And I want to write stories that give others hope and inspiration for this kind of healing, as well.  

Kelly's book list on making you fall in love with male protagonists

Kelly Flanagan Why did Kelly love this book?

The Reverend John Ames—an aged Congregationalist minister in the small, secluded town of Gilead, Iowa—is dying of heart failure, while his seven-year-old son is just entering boyhood. As Ames wrestles with generational wounds related to his father and grandfather, he wonders tenderly about the wounds he might be passing on to his own son, both due to his presence and his pending absence. Thanks to Ames, we get to see life and existence through the eyes of the wise and dying—eyes we so rarely get to see through because, by definition, they leave us before we get a chance to look. The result is a luminous view of existence, and an abiding gratitude for having been alive.

By Marilynne Robinson,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Gilead as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

WINNER OF THE PULITZER PRIZE FOR FICTION and THE NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE AWARD

AN OPRAH'S BOOK CLUB PICK

In 1956, towards the end of Reverend John Ames's life, he begins a letter to his young son: 'I told you last night that I might be gone sometime . . . You reached up and put your fingers on my lips and gave me that look I never in my life saw on any other face besides your mother's. It's a kind of furious pride, very passionate and stern. I'm always a little surprised to find my eyebrows unsinged after…


Book cover of So Long, See You Tomorrow

Ellen Prentiss Campbell Author Of Frieda's Song

From my list on life in a haunted house.

Why am I passionate about this?

In my stories and novels, in my reading, and in my life, I'm inspired and captivated by what I call resonant places, places with deep connections to the past as well as the present moment. I grew up in a mid-century modern house my parents built. Although no other family had lived in it before, our own family—like all families—was haunted by ghosts of our past. My childhood home was bulldozed by the next owners; the house has become a ghost itself. But memories remain long after a family or a home is gone. As a writer, a reader, and a psychotherapist, I believe that memories are the seeds for both remembering and imagining.

Ellen's book list on life in a haunted house

Ellen Prentiss Campbell Why did Ellen love this book?

In So Long, See You Tomorrow, an adult narrator looks back at childhood and the lingering effects of childhood loss and displacement. He recalls his mother’s death, his father’s remarriage, and moving from a beloved home. The author also tells a parallel story of the scandal that befell his friend Cletus: his father shot his mother’s lover, and then drowned himself. For the narrator, his lost boyhood home is recalled like a dream of paradise lost, a mirage of another life: “I dream about it, the proportions are so satisfying to the eye and the rooms so bright, so charming and full of character that I feel I must somehow give up my present life and go live in that house: that nothing else will make me happy.” This novel about haunting memories of a lost place and past will haunt the reader. This was one of my father’s…

By William Maxwell,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked So Long, See You Tomorrow as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A novel which charts the lives of two former friends until the father of one was responsible for the murder of the father of the other. They do not speak following the tragedy, but the victims son realises fifty years later that he has failed in a fundamental act of friendship.


Book cover of Shiloh and Other Stories

Lee Martin Author Of Yours, Jean

From my list on small-town America.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m the author of the Pulitzer Prize Finalist novel, The Bright Forever, among other books, and I teach in the MFA in Creative Writing program at Ohio State University. I was born in southeastern Illinois, where my father farmed eighty acres in Lawrence County’s Lukin Township. I’ve always been fascinated by the stories of ordinary people, particularly working-class folks in small towns and rural communities. I admire their dignity, their directness, and their big hearts. I’ve spent my life writing about them with help from writers like the ones whose books I’m recommending. I want to speak for those whose voices often get overlooked or silenced.

Lee's book list on small-town America

Lee Martin Why did Lee love this book?

This short story collection was a very influential book for me because it gave me permission to write about the people I know best. Bobbie Ann Mason’s Western Kentucky characters live just beyond the river from my native Illinois. In fact, my family came from Kentucky by way of Ohio. The characters in Shiloh are just as complicated as characters from urban areas. This book taught me how to write about my own small-town and rural folks.

By Bobbie Ann Mason,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Shiloh and Other Stories as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The stories in Bobbie Ann Mason's remarkable collection read like poetic transcriptions of day-to-day life. With her keen eye and ear for late twentieth-century popular culture, Mason can render a photograph of a brightly lit supermarket or a bit of wisdom from the Donahue show. This special edition of a beloved local author's work includes a new foreword by George Ella Lyon, Kentucky writer and friend of the author.


Book cover of The Confidence-Man: His Masquerade

Barry Keith Grant Author Of Voyages of Discovery: The Cinema of Frederick Wiseman

From my list on appreciating the films of Fredrick Wiseman.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve loved cinema since I was 9 years old growing up in New York City and my grandmother took me to see The Ten Commandments at the Paradise Theater, Loew’s magnificent flagship theater in the Bronx. The theater’s famous canopy of twinkling stars on the ceiling was the perfect magical venue, and I was thunderstruck not only by the epic sweep of the movie but also by the opulence of the theater, which mirrored the monumental pyramids that Ramses constructs in the film. Ever since, my passion for movies has been as all-consuming as DeMille’s jello sea was for the infidel Egyptians who doubted the power of special effects and cinematic illusion.

Barry's book list on appreciating the films of Fredrick Wiseman

Barry Keith Grant Why did Barry love this book?

Another book with an episodic structure, The Confidence-Man concerns an assorted group of Mississippi steamboat passengers whose individual hypocrisies are confronted by the mysterious character of the title.

Melville’s ship of fools features a variety of types, some of whom are caricatures of American literary figures including Emerson, Hawthorne, and Poe. The book was published in 1857 on April Fool’s Day, an irony equal to the publication of Bram Stoker’s Dracula on Valentine’s Day, and a gesture that Wiseman, himself a great ironist, surely would appreciate.

Certainly, it is no surprise that Wiseman has referred to The Confidence-Man as his favorite novel. One might even find Melville’s elaborate prose style analogous to Wiseman’s careful editing and his ability to confront spectators with their own biases and preconceptions, as the eponymous confidence-man does in the book.

By Herman Melville,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Confidence-Man as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

On April Fool's Day in 1856, a shape-shifting grifter boards a Mississippi riverboat to expose the pretenses, hypocrisies, and self-delusions of his fellow passengers. The con artist assumes numerous identities — a disabled beggar, a charity fundraiser, a successful businessman, an urbane gentleman — to win over his not-entirely-innocent dupes. The central character's shifting identities, as fluid as the river itself, reflect broader aspects of human identity even as his impudent hoaxes form a meditation on illusion and trust.
This comic allegory addresses themes of sincerity, character, and morality in its challenge to the optimism and materialism of mid-19th-century America.…


Book cover of Flicker

Nathan Abrams Author Of Kubrick: An Odyssey

From my list on fiction and nonfiction books about movie directors.

Why am I passionate about this?

I was old (or young) enough to have only seen two Kubrick films in the cinema: Full Metal Jacket and Eyes Wide Shut. I began teaching film studies and Hollywood in 1998, and I have been teaching and researching Kubrick intensively since 2007, visiting his archive in London on numerous occasions. At one point, I held the record for the researcher who had spent the most hours in the Archive. I also met Christiane and Jan and spoke to many others who knew and worked with Kubrick. Having been familiar with Robert Kolker’s work, it became clear that collaborating with an international authority on film was a necessity as well as a pleasure.

Nathan's book list on fiction and nonfiction books about movie directors

Nathan Abrams Why did Nathan love this book?

This is one of the few novels I’ve read twice for pleasure (rather than work). It’s a noirish novel that delves into the esoteric along the lines of Umberto Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum (which Kubrick allegedly considered adapting at one point but which I was unable to read twice!).

The book follows a film scholar who uncovers an incredible conspiracy around a fictional B-movie director called Max Castle, and the imperceptible images he placed in the gap between each of the twenty-four frames played every second in a movie: the so-called flicker of the title. Its author, Roszak, is better known for having coined the term "the counter-culture."

By Theodore Roszak,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Flicker as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the golden age of art movies and underground cinema to X-rated porn, splatter films, and midnight movies, this breathtaking thriller is a tour de force of cinematic fact and fantasy, full of metaphysical mysteries that will haunt the dreams of every moviegoer. Jonathan Gates could not have anticipated that his student studies would lead him to uncover the secret history of the movies—a tale of intrigue, deception, and death that stretches back to the 14th century. But he succumbs to what will be a lifelong obsession with the mysterious Max Castle, a nearly forgotten genius of the silent screen…


Book cover of The Floating Opera and The End of the Road

Barry Keith Grant Author Of Voyages of Discovery: The Cinema of Frederick Wiseman

From my list on appreciating the films of Fredrick Wiseman.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve loved cinema since I was 9 years old growing up in New York City and my grandmother took me to see The Ten Commandments at the Paradise Theater, Loew’s magnificent flagship theater in the Bronx. The theater’s famous canopy of twinkling stars on the ceiling was the perfect magical venue, and I was thunderstruck not only by the epic sweep of the movie but also by the opulence of the theater, which mirrored the monumental pyramids that Ramses constructs in the film. Ever since, my passion for movies has been as all-consuming as DeMille’s jello sea was for the infidel Egyptians who doubted the power of special effects and cinematic illusion.

Barry's book list on appreciating the films of Fredrick Wiseman

Barry Keith Grant Why did Barry love this book?

John Barth’s first novel, originally published in 1956 and later significantly revised, is a darkly comic philosophical novel whose main character, Todd Andrews, is contemplating suicide.

The novel, along with Barth’s second, The End of the Road, is written in a relatively realistic style, different from the metafictional turn that the author would later take in his subsequent fiction. Nevertheless, these two early books are in some ways consistent with later works like Giles Boat Boy and Lost in the Funhouse, particularly in the passages about metaphor in life and art.

Barth’s musings about metaphors in the real world are relevant to Wiseman’s ability to wrest metaphoric implications from real-world events and objects. Indeed, Wiseman’s films are a veritable floating opera of signifiers.

By John Barth,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Floating Opera and The End of the Road as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Floating Opera and The End Of The Road are John Barth's first two novels.  Their relationship to each other is evident not only in their ribald subject matter but in the eccentric characters and bitterly humorous tone of the narratives. Both concern strange, consuming love triangles and the destructive effect of an overactive intellect on the emotions. Separately they give two very different views of a universal human drama. Together they illustrate the beginnings of an illustrious career.


Book cover of Sula

Nell Freudenberger Author Of The Limits

From my list on what it’s really like to be a teenage girl.

Why am I passionate about this?

I grew up in Los Angeles in the 80s and 90s. I was a shy teenager, an obsessive reader, and a secret writer.  I went to an all-girls high school where we wore uniforms, did a lot of homework, and mostly had no idea how to meet boys. The teen girls I encountered in movies, TV shows, and even literature were sexualized to the point of being unrecognizable to me. Now that I work with teenagers (and am a mom to one), I’m fascinated by the variability of girls this age, their wide-ranging intelligence, passions, and ways of being in the world. I love novels that reflect that complexity.

Nell's book list on what it’s really like to be a teenage girl

Nell Freudenberger Why did Nell love this book?

This is my favorite of Toni Morrison’s novels because of the utterly original world she creates in the fictional Ohio neighborhood called “The Bottom.” Every time I read it, I find something new in the friendship between the main characters, Nel and Sula, a kind of relationship I recognized immediately.

I was a rule-abiding, quiet teenager who strived for approval from adults but was always attracted to bolder, less conventional friends. I often think about a scene in which Nel and Sula are walking down the street together, experiencing the sudden sense of power that comes with men’s attention and their whispered words, “pig meat.” I don’t know another book that gets at the threat and the mystery of sexual life so honestly or in such original language.

By Toni Morrison,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Sula as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Extravagantly beautiful... Enormously, achingly alive... A howl of love and rage, playful and funny as well as hard and bitter' New York Times

As young girls, Nel and Sula shared each other's secrets and dreams in the poor black mid-West of their childhood. Then Sula ran away to live her dreams and Nel got married.

Ten years later Sula returns and no one, least of all Nel, trusts her. Sula is a story of fear - the fear that traps us, justifying itself through perpetual myth and legend. Cast as a witch by the people who resent her strength, Sula…


Book cover of Autumn of the Black Snake: George Washington, Mad Anthony Wayne, and the Invasion That Opened the West

Peter Cozzens Author Of Tecumseh and the Prophet: The Shawnee Brothers Who Defied a Nation

From my list on the American Indian Wars.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a retired Foreign Service Officer with the U. S. Department of State and, more to the point for the purpose of the topic at hand, the author or editor of eighteen books on the Indian Wars and the Civil War. Among them is the bestselling, multiple award-winning The Earth is Weeping: The Indian Wars for the American West.

Peter's book list on the American Indian Wars

Peter Cozzens Why did Peter love this book?

The bloodiest and most decisive Indian wars occurred not in the American West but in the Ohio Valley shortly after the United States gained its independence. The little known struggles with the formidable tribes of the Midwest opened the way for westward expansion. Autumn of the Black Snake is a scrupulously balanced account of what is sometimes called President George Washington’s Indian War, enhanced with an intriguing recounting of the often dirty policies behind the creation of the United States Army. Author William Hogeland also offers engaging portraits of towering but largely forgotten Indian leaders such as Little Turtle and Blue Jacket and their peoples. Read this book before turning to the Indian Wars in the West.

By William Hogeland,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Autumn of the Black Snake as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

William Hogeland's Autumn of the Black Snake presents forgotten story of how the U.S. Army was created to fight a crucial Indian war.

When the Revolutionary War ended in 1783, the newly independent United States savored its victory and hoped for a great future. And yet the republic soon found itself losing an escalating military conflict on its borderlands. In 1791, years of skirmishes, raids, and quagmire climaxed in the grisly defeat of American militiamen by a brilliantly organized confederation of Shawnee, Miami, and Delaware Indians. With nearly one thousand U.S. casualties, this was the worst defeat the nation would…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Ohio, presidential biography, and Amish?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Ohio, presidential biography, and Amish.

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